The first people to colonize a world beyond our solar system may have trouble describing their new home to the folks back on Earth.
The nearest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri, lies 4.2 light-years from us — so far away that it would take tens of thousands of years to get there using current technology. And most stars, of course, are much more distant than that; our Milky Way galaxy is about 100,000 light-years wide.
Imagine a habitable planet orbiting a distant star. You’re probably picturing a variation of Earth. Maybe it’s a little cloudier, or covered in oceans. Maybe the mountains are a little higher. Maybe the trees are red instead of green. Maybe there are scantily clad natives…OK, let’s stop there.
On July 21, 1969, when the Apollo 11 crew was due to depart the lunar surface after a 22-hour visit, two speeches were placed on President Richard Nixon’s desk. “Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace,” read the contingency speech. Would Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong live out the rest of their days staring at the blue glow of Earth from 250,000 miles away?